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Trudell (Unrated)

Release Date: February 24th , 2006 (Quad Cinema) by Balcony Releasing.
Directed by Heather Rae.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about John Trudell, a Native American poet and activist.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: John Trudell, now in his sixties, is an important activist for the preservation of American Indian land and giving recognition to American Indian tribes. During the 1960’s he and the Indians of All Tribes held a protest on Alcatraz for nearly two years. As his conflict with the status quo of American society and politics continued, he became the National Spokesman of the American Indian Movement. The FBI kept a watchful eye on him—including tapping his phone—especially after he burned an American flag right in front of their headquarters. Not too long afterward, wife, mother and three children died in a suspicious house fire. What makes him so worthy of a documentary about him? Unlike many activists he voiced his beliefs through poetry and, eventually, through songs. Interviews with well-known people such as Robert Redford, Val Kilmer, Kris Krostofferson, Bonnie Raitt, and Sam Shepard all help to show how intelligent and eloquent Trudell was and still is today. However, director Heather Rae includes some new interviews as well as old footage of Trudell where he criticizes the American government. Not surprisingly, after his phase as a poet, he soon turned his poetry into songs with a band called Bone Days. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to grasp what the real Trudell is like when he’s not a poet or a singer/songwriter. At a running time of nearly 80 minutes, this film doesn’t do him enough justice.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Trudell cares about important virtues such as justice, fairness, and basic human rights. He expresses himself openly and freely, but he lacks warmth. At least he takes his anger against the government and channels it through powerful words—his weapon of choice. He definitely has plenty of energy and creativity, but without more information about his past and more personal interviews with him, he still feels like a stranger after the film is over. Moreover, his interviews lack proper analysis and insight into his life. He certainly comes across as a critical thinker/questioner, but if only the same could be said about the interviewer.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Not enough analysis/insight.


IN A NUTSHELL: An overly-simplistic, straight-forward documentary that captures the essence of Trudell’s life without enough insight or analysis.


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